Gifted and Talented and Journalism students visit Ground Zero

By Ellen Hamilton '15

On the morning of September 11, 2001 America endured the worst act of terrorism that our country has ever had to experience.  It started off as a normal Tuesday morning; it was Election Day and for employees with children, it was their first day of school.  None of those who were late to work that day for whatever reason had any idea that that made them one of the lucky ones.  The entire attack lasted for 102 minutes beginning with 8:46 a.m. when American Airline flight 11 struck the North Tower, impacting the 96-99th floors.  At first America was not sure of what was happening. They didn’t understand how a commercial airplane could accidentally hit one of the highest towers in not only New York City, but around the world.  It wasn’t until 9:03 a.m. when United Airline Flight 175 struck the South Tower that President Bush and the rest of our country was informed that our nation was under attack, and that our own commercial airplanes were the weapons.

At this point, there was a lot of confusion; were there more planes? What place is next? Who was doing this and why?  Unfortunately, the attack did not end with the Twin Towers.  At 9:37 a.m. the third plane, American Airline Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.   And at 9:59 a.m. something even more unthinkable happened, the collapse of South Tower.  The possibility of this happening didn’t occur to anyone, especially the South Tower going down first due to it being the second building hit.  The tragedy didn’t end there.  At 10:03 a.m. the fourth plane United Airline Flight 93 crashed into a field in P.A.

The attack hadn’t gone as the terrorists had planned; Flight 93 was delayed so attacks weren’t simultaneous, and the passengers began communicating off the plane, which is when they found out what was really going on and what their fate was going to be.  But the people on this plane had extraordinary bravery and decided intervene. They stormed the cockpit and crashed the plane 20 minutes from the intended target: the Capital Building.  The final act of horror was at 10:28 a.m. with collapse of North Tower.  Although the attack was over, the aftermath was a long way from finished.

They say times of tragedy can unite people together, and that’s exactly what our country did.  We united in mourning, fear, hope, and in action to repair and rebuild.  Many firemen, policemen, and volunteers went to the site to begin the long and dangerous cleanup process.  Many families were hoping that something of their loved ones possession would be found such as jewelry, remains, etc.  Unfortunately, everything was turned to ash except for the remains of the buildings that once stood 110 stories high.  Fire was still burning at the site until two months later in December, and the cleanup wasn’t complete until one last piece of remains from the South Tower was removed almost two years later on May 28, 2002.

Today a new World Trade Center stands in Manhattan, the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, and fourth tallest building in the world.  A memorial site is placed where the two towers once stood, with two big square plaques with waterfalls inside with the names of those who lost their lives that day engraved into it.  There is also a museum with actual pieces of the buildings and other commemorative objects.  The site was opened on May 21st, and after just three months had over one million visitors.  The rebuilding of the World Trade Center and finalization of the museum and memorial site represents the good that can be done when we band together as a country, our strength, and our country’s decision not to ever forget what happened and the lives that were lost, but to move forward in hopes for a better tomorrow.


The Gifted and Talented programs advisor at the West Deptford High School, Ellen Quindlen saw this rebuilding as something that would be good for her students to experience.  She gathered her Gifted and Talented Students as well as a fellow teacher, Venise Grossmann’s journalism class, and decided to take them on the trip to New York on December 6, 2014.  Quindlen says: “I had read some article about how the museum portion had recently opened, and since terrorism is such a big part of our lives these days, I thought that giving the students the opportunity to learn more about 911 would be beneficial.”

For the students who ranged from freshman to seniors, it was a different experience than it was for the teachers. The students were very young at the time and may only remember some of what happened that day making it more of a learning experience, while for teachers it was more of a re-living the day’s events experience.  “I had a lot of different emotions the day of the trip. It brought back memories for me of living through that time period. It was also bittersweet as an educator to observe our students as they learn more about the events of that day. I was moved by their reactions,” Quindlen stated.

Reflecting on her experience on 9/11 Qunindlen says, “I remember what a gorgeous day it was, how beautiful the sky was.  It was such a beautiful day and then these events happened. It was such a contradiction.  I remember picking my kids up from school and taking them home and families across the country just wanted to stay together because we didn’t know what was going to happen.”  She plans on taking students back to the site in the future.  She believes that every student should have this experience.

Freshman Jalissa Carter was only one-year-old at the time and does not remember much of the day’s events. Carter said, “Because I was so young at the time of the attacks, it was interesting to learn more about what happened that day and to see actual pieces of the buildings and fire trucks that were in the museum.  It was also just an overall cool experience for me because I had never been to New York before, and we got to walk around and see what Manhattan was like.” In the future, Carter says that she would like to go back, and she enjoyed riding through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Many of the students agreed Quindlen and believe that this trip is something that every high school student should experience.  It is important that we never let the events of this day go unforgotten because it was something so important that happened in our country’s history.  And those who lost their lives that day deserve to be remembered forever.  Something that truly stands out in the museum is a memorial placed on the wall.  It has 2,977 blue papers posted to the wall representing the beautiful color of the sky the day of the attack, and the 2,971 who lost their lives on 9/11 and the six who lost their lives in the 1993 WTC bombing.  In the middle it has a quote that reads, “No day shall erase you from the memory of time” – Virgil.  We as a nation, must make sure those words stay true forever.